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First Drive: The Mini Countryman John Cooper Works is a sporty addition to the compact SUV class

Mini’s new Countryman is now back for a new generation. Ted Welford tries it out in sporty John Cooper Works guise.

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Mini Countryman

What is it?

Mini Countryman
The rear of the Countryman is upright and distinctive

Mini’s sporty John Cooper Works (JCW) division is renowned for breathing fire into its already-fun cars, and soon it will be going down the electric route, with a range of sporty EVs planned.

But even though Mini is launching its regular new Countryman with a range of electric versions for the first time, it’s not forgetting about petrol just yet, as a new JCW of its stylish new crossover is soon launching. But is it worth considering?

What’s new?

Mini Countryman
The rear lights are distinctive in design

If we’re talking about the Countryman as a whole, there’s very little that is carried over from the previous model. This new model is by far Mini’s largest car to date – and is 14cm longer than before at 4.4m – and also gets a striking new interior that looks to hark back to the general look of an original Mini’s interior, albeit modernised with new touchscreens and fancy lighting as you might expect.

As for the JCW, well it gets suitably sportier styling to go with its extra performance. There’s lots of blacked-out styling that goes well with John Cooper Works’ trademark red colours, while the grille gets a cool new chequered-flag pattern.

What’s under the bonnet?

Mini Countryman
The exhaust pipes on the JCW hint towards the performance on offer

This new hot Countryman uses a similar 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, though because of ever-tightening emissions regulations, both power and torque are slightly down to 296bhp and 400Nm respectively. As a result, its 5.2-second 0-60mph time is three-tenths down on its predecessor, though the JCW’s top speed remains capped to 155mph.

The JCW also comes as standard with All4 four-wheel-drive, with a seven-speed automatic gearbox being used – soon there will be no option for a Mini with a manual transmission. In terms of running costs, Mini claims around 35mpg, with CO2 emissions of 177-188g/km.

If you want a petrol Countryman but don’t need the JCW’s pace, it’s also available with a 168bhp 1.5-litre and 215bhp 2.0-litre engines.

What’s it like to drive?

Mini Countryman
The Countryman remains Mini’s largest vehicle

Mini has looked to inject the fun factor in the new Countryman, and in many respects, it has worked. Put this SUV in dedicated ‘Go-Kart’ mode and it sharpens up, with a lively engine sound, though some of it is artificially enhanced. It might be slightly down on performance on paper compared to the previous version, you’d never know as it rapidly gets up to speed, with its fast-shifting gearbox quickly unlocking speed.

On a windier road, it’s more enjoyable to drive than many of its rivals, with a sharp turn-in and feeling flat through the corners. It’s by no means a hot hatch, however. One aspect that lets the side is the overly firm – the large 20-inch alloy wheels on our test car doing it no favours.

How does it look?

Mini Countryman
The new Countryman has grown compared with its predecessor

With its darkened styling, contrasting red roof and new quad-exit exhaust system, the JCW certainly looks the business, and far more so than ‘regular’ versions. The big optional 20-inch alloy wheels, while doing the ride no favours, look excellent and cover the Countryman’s red brake callipers and huge discs.

The rear end of the Countryman isn’t quite so smart, though, as it’s this area that shows the sheer growth of this SUV, and almost makes it look a bit bloated. We’re also not a fan of the ‘ John Cooper Works All4’ emblem just behind the C-pillar. It feels like a styling element that this SUV didn’t need.

What’s it like inside?

Mini Countryman
The interior of the Countryman features loads of technology

Mini has aimed to make each Countryman trim level stand out, and in the case of the John Cooper Works that means a whole lot of red. The knitted dashboard gets a cool design and there’s even a projector that displays an intricate design on it, though you need it to be dark before you notice. The quality throughout is generally very good too, while there’s still that same sense of Mini fun – achieved through elements such as a fabric strap on the steering wheel and a smart round touchscreen that aims to replicate the speedo of an original Mini. It’s a bit busy and takes time to adjust to, but works well and offers exceptional clarity.

This new Countryman is also much roomier than its predecessor, with a big 460-litre boot with plentiful underfloor storage too. There’s a decent amount of rear seat space although the chunky sports seats do get in the way.

What’s the spec like?

Mini Countryman
The JCW brings a high level of standard equipment

Sitting at the top of the range, the Countryman comes with plenty of standard equipment including 19-inch alloy wheels, full LED lighting and a large central screen that comes with wireless smartphone mirroring and navigation.Other highlights include heated front seats, a head-up display and Harman Kardon sound system, and there’s very little else it needs.

Though by no means cheap at £41,520, the Countryman JCW undercuts many of its rivals – Volkswagen’s T-Roc R, for example, starts from £45,000. It’s a good deal cheaper than an electric Countryman with the same power as well.


The Mini Countryman JCW is a welcome addition to the sporty crossover market. It’s good to drive, offers plenty of performance and offers far more character than fairly plain rivals like the Volkswagen T-Roc R and Audi SQ2.

This latest model’s increased size makes it seem a far more substantial and useful car for families as well, while the interior – though a bit tricky to negotiate at first – is cool and stylish. If you want a useful crossover that can bring a smile to your face, the Countryman JCW is well worth a look.

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